Do you know the sinking feeling that you have when something good is ending? Well, that’s what I am going through. The summer is finished, and my daughters are going back to school. But all is not doom and gloom. This morning, while walking back home, I met a Greek Goddess. Yes, honestly. She was standing in front of the Chelsea college of art. She was gorgeous. Actually, she was more majestic than gorgeous.
Meet the “Big Woman”. Don’t ask me why, but I instantly knew that she was a woman (Come on, it is obvious, isn’t it?). She doesn’t seem to have any arms and she is definitively not skinny. But there is something in the way she is standing that reminds me of a Greek statue. She simply has a strong presence.
She was lovingly being prepared by young Dutch artist, Maarten van den Bos and I forgot my French accent and my usual shyness to have a quick word with him.
He is a Master student at the Chelsea college of Art. The Greek Goddess is made of plaster, and he was trying to coat her to prevent her from melting. Wise precaution, As the Bank holiday weekend has been a wash-out, I am sure that the Greek Goddess will need to use all her divine powers to stand all week long!
There is something universal about this sculpture, something that I needed at the start of a gloomy week. I can’t put my finger on it, but it is at the same time uplifting, human and also extraordinary.
I thought that I was becoming cynical. It has been a long time since I have been moved by a piece of art. But miracles do happen, after all. It is the small things that matter, isn’t it? And the Greek goddess has made my day!
It is always nice to get noticed, right? I am talking about being noticed for all the right reasons, obviously. So when ActionAid invited me to their blogging party, I immediately said yes. They wanted to share with us the fact that they are starting to get involved in Myanmar (Burma), which I didn’t know. As some of you might have noticed, I was born French by mistake, my heart is in South East Asia and I go there at every possible opportunity, which is nowhere near often enough.
I like working with ActionAid. I like being noticed for the right reasons. Look at Prince Harry, for instance. If you are not aware of the whole story, you can read about it here. To cut a long story short, Prince Harry was pictured stark naked, crown jewels and everything, cavorting with surgically enhanced blondes in Las Vegas. I can assure you with 100% confidence that you won’t find any pictures of me playing strip billiard. That’s because I have never played strip billiard. It is official: I am a boring old fart, I know.
But I digress. I am sponsoring a child in India with ActionAid. His name is Suresh and this blog pays for the sponsorship fee (To be honest, I have to top it up, but we will get there!). It is my small way of making a difference, thanks to my readers. So why Myanmar? Following decades of struggle and uncertainty, Myanmar is starting to open up and now is a good time to get involved there. We had a presentation from actor Jimi Mistry and ambassador Alex Graham. Not to mention the fact that I met some lovely fellow bloggers (see here for the list). I was impressed with ActionAid approach. It is not about imposing our westernised ideas to communities. No, it is about training locals to become ‘change agents’ and letting them find the best ways to improve local communities’ life. And, to top it up, we had lots of cakes, which is always nice.
It is also worth mentioning that80% of your donation goes to local communities. If you are interested in sponsoring a child please Sponsor a child with ActionAid.
I am pleased that I can help in my own way. What about you? How do you get noticed?
How pushy exactly is too pushy? Who takes the initiative? To make matters even worse, what’s considered good practice in London might be unacceptable in France. Life can be difficult. It feels a bit like driving in the dark with only your clearance lights sometimes.
Let me take an example. A few years ago, Stefanie (NOT her real name), a lovely French trainee, came to work with us, in London. She was funny, cute and very bright. She was also very French and chain smoked. All the male colleagues of the office used to rush outside whenever she was having a cigarette. She started liking this English guy and, eventually, he took her on a date. She was obviously very excited about the whole thing. Except that, the following morning, she explained to me that he behaved like a perfect gentleman and didn’t even try to kiss her. He drove her home and even waited for her to open her entrance door to make sure that she was safe, but nothing else happened. How odd.
She was confused. So was I. As I have never dated a British guy, I couldn’t really offer any advice. So we did our research (how did we manage before Google?) and asked around. Apparently, some guys wait a bit before making a move. “Ok”, she said, “I can wait”.
And wait she did. 5 more dates down the road, nothing had happened. (This couldn’t happen in France). She didn’t know what to do. I suggested dating continental guys, because I (used to) find it a lot easier to know where to stand with them –better the devil you know…-. But she wanted to persevere. We had a quick brainstorm. At the time, I was trying to get my daughter into a local Catholic school and found out that I needed a priest reference. So I told her that, maybe, in this country, you need a priest reference before starting a relationship? We asked around but no, apparently it was not necessary. Some Church of England priests are even openly gay over here, and nobody has a problem with it, which I actually find great. Well, back to square one then: how does it work over here?
We tried to find other explanations. If he didn’t fancy her, why would he keep inviting her to nice restaurants? Stefanie, who was not a quitter, decided that he was simply too shy to make a move (maybe it was because of his boarding school education?) and, one evening, after two months of lovely but uneventful dates, she invited him to the pub. After a few drinks, she took him to a dark corner of a beautiful mews and tried to kiss him.
Fatal mistake. He didn’t respond well to her initiative (that’s actually an euphemism) and she felt very ashamed. So ashamed, in fact, that she cut her work placement short a couple of weeks later, after profusely apologising to the guy (she argued that she was drunk).
I bumped into my former English colleague approximately a year ago. He was still single and living with his dog. To this date, she doesn’t understand what has happened -but she moved on. As for me, I understand that I suck at the role of confidante, but I am still struggling to get what went wrong. Any advice/insights?
What I love about London is its international vibe.
I have spent my morning coffee surrounded by a table of loud Spanish girls on one side and a smooching Russian couple on the other side.
Where else could I have such free entertainment? To add to the surreal side of my morning coffee, the office building next to the coffee shop was being emptied and the pathway was full of lovely yellow leather sofas of all shapes and sizes and small wooden office tables. It was all being charged in huge lorries. Completely surreal, especially on a Monday morning.
Things keep moving in London, nothing stays forever, and maybe the office block next to my coffee shop will soon be redeveloped with swanky and very expensive new flats. I wonder.
One thing that doesn’t seem to change is my love for my morning coffee. I need caffeine to wake up, no matter what. I wonder why that is. Is it the coffee that I enjoy, or simply the ritual of having coffee somewhere outside of my house? I don’t know.
I like good coffee, and I walk a bit further than me nearest coffee shop to go to a small chain I like.
I can’t stand coffee of poor quality. Good coffee is warm and a bit bitter. Its taste slowly fills the mouth. Heaven.
Talking about coffee, I noticed, when I was in New York, that lots of independent coffee shops have opened and they serve excellent espressos. It doesn’t come cheap (such boutique coffee shops serve espressos at 3 dollars a pop) but waking up in a good mood doesn’t have a price, right? I was glad to see that I was not the only one to enjoy good coffee.
Funnily enough, France doesn’t seem to have this culture of good coffee. Some Starbucks have started to appear, but no other chains and no coffee shop at each corner of the street like over here.
If you want a coffee there, you are likely to have to go to a bar. You might also see some local people starting to drink a few glasses of wine there. First thing in the morning. Not nice. I much prefer my lovely coffee shop in London.
I think that it can only mean one thing: I couldn’t go back to live in France. Where would I have my coffee?
Today, I had another reminder of how different the Brits can be. I was nicely queuing at my local coffee shop when the lady right before me made a big fuss about her croissant being too brown and, according to her, over baked. The placid and polite shop assistant swapped it for a white, flat croissant that, for some unknown reason, she was a lot happier with. There and then it dawned on me: she didn’t know what a good croissant was. I should have tried to educate her but, frankly, I didn’t really feel up for it, especially before my morning’s coffee.
Me being me, I ended up talking to the baker, who explained to me that most British people like their bread or their croissant whitish, flat, and under cooked. You see, he explained, they are so used to the soft, white industrial bread that they can’t cope with the crusty French bread.
This can’t be right! Real bread must be dark gold, with a hard crust that makes a lovely, squishy sound when you press it (needless to say, such a sound is music to my ears). As for the inside, it must be light and melt in the mouth. Nothing to do with the taste of plaster and plastic that you get with the carefully wrapped industrial bread. It is a completely different feeling.
Croissants are the same. They mustn’t be white and flat. The crust needs to be, well, crusty and round. As for the inside you must have thin layers of buttery pate feuilletee, with a lot of air between then. Simply delicious.
Isn’t it sad that, because most British people don’t know good bread, they simply don’t recognise it? They even WANT bad bread instead of the real thing. I hadn’t realised that being French came with such a knowledge of good bread. It is probably part of the silent education there. I do realise that, in the grand scheme of things, this is probably a minor issue. But, you see, I am a great believer of quality as opposed to quantity. Having said that, good bread is easy to find in France. No need to be rich, you can find it at every local boulangerie. As for the woman this morning, well, she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. What a shame!
I liked the Olympics very much. What a great experience! A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So here it is, have a look at my gallery…You can leave some comments below or click on each picture to see the original version and comment there. Please enjoy without moderation! I loved every minute of the Games and I feel like a citizen of the world. The sheer amount of volunteers and helpers simply humbled me. I have read (French) articles explaining that trying to gain a few tenths of seconds for a race was childish but I disagree. The Olympic games are all about effort and discipline, and trying to improve yourself. The athletes are real role models. We had a fantastic time! And don’t forget to share your experiences here.
I am spending a couple of days in New York but I will be back in time for the Olympic Games closing ceremony. I am very excited about it! That said, I am not entirely sure of what I will wear.
I can’t put my fingers on it, but there is something about French style. I can even feel it over here, in New York. The thing is, I am pretty low maintenance and I love simple pieces, but, despite not spending a fortune on fashion, I get the occasional look or comment about how nice my shirt/dress is. I got another one today, which was very unexpected because of the jet lag and the bags under my eyes. I was wearing a simple, LK Bennett red top.
From LK Bennett website
I love the color red. Always have. Always will.
I bought it in Westfield a couple of weeks ago, and it seems to do the trick!
Because the thing is, most people assume that I buy my clothes in France. But I don’t. I barely go back to France a couple of times of year and I am so busy there that I have no time to shop anyway. So how do I get the French look? Well, I have no idea. I was born this way. I tend to like simple, classic designs, with a dash of colour. Oh, and less is more. I don’t do fancy prints.
I also love the simple designs of All Saints. All Saints hold a special place in my heart because it is the only shop where I can buy clothes for my daughter and me…
I especially like their cardigans, jumpers and coats. I like Cos too, and they are very reasonably priced. But my daughter is more into Abercrombie and Fitch and I have to say that I feel really, really old when I see the half naked models at the entrance. She wears their clothes well, though…Have a look:
In short, no need to go to France to buy nice clothes.Westfield, in Sheperds bush, has it all.
Before starting, I have to tell you that travel is in my blood. I don’t know why, but I am never happier than with a suitcase and a plane ticket. I happen to be French. My birth country is therefore France. I live in London and the UK is becoming my adoptive country. That said, right now I am enjoying New York and, despite the jet lag it feels really good. I am watching my adoptive country doing well in the Olympics. But it doesn’t seem to go down very well with my birth country. They believe that the British have bent the rules and even used ‘magic wheels’ for some cycling competitions -the magic wheels in question are, ironically, manufactured in France. As a results, the anti-Olympic mentality is quickly gaining momentum in France, which is a shame. I will say it out loud: what is wrong with the French? They seem to forget that, when the rules play in their favour, they don’t say anything ( do you remember Thierry Henry’s hand during the France/Ireland match?). And when the French swimmers kept winning medals they didn’t seem to have any afterthoughts! Our newly elected president even joked that the British had paved the way for the French to win medals. What a difference a week makes! They simply can’t accept that they lost. It is probably because they believe that they are the best. How can you progress if you don’t accept that there is room for improvement? I hope that, in time, they will learn their lessons and thrive to become the best. You see, I have a bit of a loyalty issue here: I have therefore decided to support whoever wins, French or English. Somehow travelling has made me become more open-minded. I know that we are all humans and there is nothing like a healthy competition to push us a bit!
We are all in this together, right? Right, that’s what I thought too. That said, we often forget how lucky we are. This is why I decided to sponsor a child in India, with a charity called ActionAid. His name is Suresh, he lives in the Orissa (Odisha) province and he is 7 years old. He sent me a beautiful drawing of what makes him dream and guess what: he drew a pile of potatoes. I was stunned. My 7-year old is emotionally blackmailing me to get more Legos and he is dreaming of potatoes. Go figure.
Sponsoring a child is, for me, a good sanity check. I tend to worry about my daughters’ school exams or birthday parties when in fact an important part of the planet hasn’t access to tap water. Being reminded of this fact is, I believe, a good thing. We are indeed very fortunate: we have access to water, food and medical care. It doesn’t prevent me from moaning all the time, and I guess that’s what human nature is about, right? Well, I hope so. I have therefore decided to continue to support Action Aid and will attend their blogging party on the 15th of August (you can see all the details here and maybe join me? ). I hope that it will give me new ideas and new topics to blog about. Yes, we tend to take what we have for granted. I sometimes wonder what sort of education I give to my daughters. I am thinking of sending them to do some charity work at some point, with the hope that it will keep them grounded. Raising children is nothing short of a conundrum. Right now, I am spoiling them rotten and they have a very privileged childhood without probably noticing it, because they don’t know anything else. Having said that, why would I give them a hard time? I find the right balance impossible to strike. A happy childhood is such a strength for the future! Sponsoring a child is probably a way for me to try to be a better mother and keep things in perspective. I look forward to my journey with Suresh. We are all in this together. Nb: if you want me to continue to sponsor children and give to charities please don’t forget to join the competition of the summer here ).
OK, I need to come clean here: I love shopping. As we are mostly staying in London during the summer because we are attending the Olympic Games, I thought that I could take this little ‘staycation’ as an opportunity to shop a little bit. I even had a little speech in my head to convince my husband that it was all going to be for the greater good, and it really didn’t matter because we are not paying for expensive holidays anyway but I had to forget about all my well-prepared points when I saw the price of the Olympic Tickets. It was all worth it but, believe me, it is REALLY expensive… To make matters even worse, my daughters don’t like shopping with me, because apparently my tastes are really boring. My 12-year-old could spend a day trying clothes on at Topshop and Juicy Couture -not for me, thanks… As for my 7-year old, she always wants to buy some Legos, and I feel like I am a tad too old for Legos.
In short, it was going to be a bit more difficult that I initially thought. But I had a little help. Westfield (in Sheperds Bush) opened a bit less than 4 years ago and is a home from home. When I was younger (in my 20’s…) I used to love spending time shopping in small, independent shops, but obviously with children and little time I can’t do it anymore: Westfield is the answer. It is a all-in-one, you can find everything you need and I seem to be spending my days there when we are not going to the Olympic park. And guess what: it is empty!
So when I was contacted to partner with Westfield to give you the following information, I could only say a big YES!
Basically, Westfield is giving everyone the chance to share their own ‘I was there’ story which will live on as part of the legacy of London 2012.
“If you want to play, please sign up to one of Westfield’s teams. I personally support team WEST obviously -I like a little challenge…, so please follow the link here if you agree with me. If not (It is the Olympic Games, I play it fair), you can always click here. That’s it, you’re ready to take part in the competition of the summer!
Tweet #IWASTHERE #WEST (Follow Westfield here and here); join in on Facebook (here and here); take photos on instagram and earn points for your team.
The more points you score the more chance of winning. I know that I am nearing 40 and all the rest of it, and I should be reasonable, but I am excited, and I am taking part. What’s wrong with a little competition anyway?
And don’t forget the free entertainment here. All the kids services can be found if you follow the link. Let me know if you intend to go, I seem to be spending all my life there!
Welcome to French Yummy Mummy. My name is Muriel (you need to pronounce it MuriEL, not MEWriel, just so you know).
I used to live in Paris and, when my husband found a job in London,
I had two options: change husband or change job. I chose the latter, and the whole family moved to London as a result.